From Broken Hearts to Expansive Love

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[BCC Editorial Note: this guest post contains raw and personal details of sexual assault, ecclesiastical abuse, and grace.  The content may not be advised for all readers.]

PAR has degrees from places warm and sunny, cold and cloudy, and hot and sticky. None of those degrees led to work he enjoyed.  He then realized having a job was the problem and now does his own thing for clients he mostly likes.

I’d like to share a little bit of my journey with you, friend.  Because I feel like maybe you don’t see me.  Not just me, but people like me.  I grew up in the Church.  I served a mission.  I went to school.  I worked.  I went to more school.  I worked.  Then I went to more school.  In school round three, I met my now-wife.  Through that point I probably voted like you.  I knew the prescribed answers at church really well.  You probably saw me as a model Mormon.  Sometimes, though, life happens.  

One night I let a friend from church crash on my couch.  He talked to me.  A lot.  I fell asleep as he was still talking.  I woke up as he ejaculated on me.  This was unexpected.  I learned something that night.  The way you think you will react if somebody violates you is not actually the way you will react.  Before that night, I’d have likely judged someone harshly for reacting the way I did.  I think I expected me to react strongly.  Maybe throw him out?  Maybe call the police?  Maybe yell?  Swear?  I didn’t do any of that.  Instead, I calmly suggested that he sleep on the couch as per the arrangement for the night.  I even fixed him breakfast the next morning, like I’d do for anyone crashing on my couch.

It takes time to process what I now realize was an attack.  Some of you may have experienced a sexual battery.  You will understand.  The rest of you will not.  You rest might have some empathy, but you’re probably wrong-headed about it.  Your empathy usually comes from a place of certainty.  It isn’t helpful.

In the days and months after, I didn’t want to talk about it.  But I needed to say something.  I told a couple of close friends I had caught the dude jerking off in my room. Which was true, just not the whole story.  It’s still not the whole story.  I had to say something.  But I didn’t want to talk about it.  I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that I had done something wrong.  Intellectually I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, but my brain kept replaying scenarios trying to figure out how things could have gone differently.  I would get to where I thought I was feeling okay, then suddenly feel worthless, unworthy of love and care.  Dirty.  Broken.  I didn’t know yet that the worst of being broken was still to come.

Dude felt bad, I think.  Later.  Mormons know the process, everyone else might find this part weird.  Dude went to his bishop to talk about it.  His bishop, the leader of his congregation, was not my bishop.  Geographically, we lived far enough apart that we were unlikely to have ever met if not for church.  I don’t know how Dude perceived the night.  I don’t know exactly how he processed it.  At this point, I don’t care.  The story I later received 3rd and 4th hand was that he alleged I had seduced him.  You read that correctly.  He said, essentially, that sleeping-me had seduced him.  He just couldn’t help but masturbate to my sleeping form.  I like to think I’m attractive, but it’s mostly a joke in my head.  (I know sarcasm doesn’t carry through text.  But I can’t seem to convey my feelings for the idea of me seducing him without sarcasm.)

Dude’s bishop told the Stake President what he understood Dude’s story to be.  In Mormondom, the Stake President is the guy the bishops report to.  The Stake President told my bishop to give me a “deep and probing” interview.  There was no explanation.  I guess I could have told my bishop about Dude.  But I didn’t want to talk about it.  No one should have to talk about it if they don’t want to.

Everything seemed good.  Mormons know what temple recommends are.  I renewed mine.  Bishop, Stake President, and me, we all signed it.  It’s the 21st century.  It has a barcode.  It has to be digitally activated.  It never was.  After the interview, the Stake President decided “something didn’t feel right.”  I still didn’t know if Dude had lied about the nature of that night.  I still didn’t know if the Stake President had heard anything.  No one would tell me what was happening.  I was engaged to be married.  Stake President would not give me a recommend for a temple marriage.

Eventually we figured out the issue.  It was Dude.  And some erroneous facts.  I still did not want to talk about it.  But I relayed what happened in an effort to clear it up.  I again tried to get the recommend for my marriage.  The Stake President still refused, saying something still seemed to be missing.  I was angry.  He told me I could appeal to the First Presidency of the Church.  I told him something that might make you, dear reader, think of bovine feces.  I left angry.

I wrote a letter to the First Presidency.  They, in effect, ignored it.

I moved out of my apartment and to a new city in preparation for graduation and my wedding.  I was in a new Stake.  I’ll admit I was hopeful.  But the new Stake President had been told the “story.”  Not my story, though.  The first Stake President apparently said I had confessed to some “sin” I had not confessed to.  It makes me angry now to hear about Mormons thinking they need to “confess” to men behind closed doors.

Stake President B told me if I didn’t confess to the “sin” he wanted me to confess to, he’d never give me a recommend.  He didn’t lie about that.  Stake President B also knew Dude. He’d known Dude’s parents as kids.  Dude had gone on a mission.  In Stake President B’s mind, Dude couldn’t have been the bad actor, or God wouldn’t have allowed Dude to serve as a missionary.  If I didn’t like it, SPB said, I could appeal to the First Presidency.  So I wrote a letter.  Again.  This time the First Presidency sent a Seventy.  The Seventy talked to my old bishop.  He talked to Stake President A.  He talked to Stake President B. He never talked to me.  I later learned he called me a liar in his report to the First Presidency.

My wife and I were not allowed to marry in the temple.  We married in my aunt’s backyard.  Even though I’d followed all the rules.  I’d checked all the (figurative) boxes. But the men I had always believed to be literal prophets were unable to see the truth. Instead, they allowed SPB to block me from participation in the holiest ordinance of the Church.  For years, because SPB was convinced I was a non-confessing liar, I could attend Church but not the Temple.  I could not be sealed to my wife or kids.  I was barred from holding callings.  SPB accused me of lying, of being a danger to young men, and of being a dangerous father to my children.  He actively tried to break apart my family.  There was never a disciplinary council.  I was never disfellowshipped.  Just shunned.  Just disallowed.  In Mormondom, that’s almost like being kicked out.

I broke.  My heart broke.  Despite hours and hours of meeting with Stake President B trying to help him see reason, despite hours and hours of prayer, despite doing everything I had always been taught to do and believe, basic justice and reason failed. The Church I had always loved failed me.  It failed my young family.  For years after this it failed harder and harder.  And it hurt.  I was hurt.  I was angry.  I felt betrayed.  The failure of the Church to listen shattered me from the inside out in a way that the sexual battery on its own was unable to do.

But in my pain, I began to grow.  Slowly.  Step by step.  But it hurt.

As I walked this path, Dude came home from his mission.  Dude was lauded by Stake President B as being an example of the “good fruits” of “being righteous.”  Then Dude got a boyfriend.  Suddenly the “good fruits” weren’t discussed as much.  SPB still didn’t change his perspective about me.  I suppose he saw both Dude and me as gay, and he, like all too many Mormons, didn’t like gay people.  That’s devastatingly sad.  They don’t see it.  Exclusion isn’t love.  Excluding kids because you don’t like their parents isn’t love either.  I’ve felt exclusion.  It wasn’t lovely.  Maybe if there’d been a space for Dude to hope for love and marriage while staying in his Mormon tribe, that night years ago would have been different.  Eventually, I came to see that my attacker must have come from a place of pain and isolation.

I stopped being angry.  Eventually.  In my own way.  I met Jesus on the path I was walking.  He was kind.  He was a great deal more kind than younger-me could have ever understood.

After years of letters, eventually one Seventy listened to me.  Stake President B was removed from his position.  This was a relief.  Stake President C replaced him.  Stake President C let me have a temple recommend again.

By then, my understanding had changed.  I felt a great deal of contrition for the person I was before Dude, and before Stake President B.  Not because I was bad.  But because I was blind.  Because I now saw that I had been not all that great at loving, at including.  To borrow from Plato, I now realized that the world was not just shadows on the cave wall, but it was big, and bright, and beautiful, and diverse.  And although my tribe, my Mormondom, was foundational to me, and I loved it, I could now see its limits.  Limits inherent to humanity, but limits nonetheless.  I found it ironic that only after my lonely walk down the road, only after I could see that there was more to the universe than my tribe, was I welcomed back.

Those years of my heart being broken mattered.  It was the doorway that let me move forward.  In breaking, it gave me more room to love.  I now see bishops and stake presidents and other “leaders,” as people who should be, by virtue of their positions, models of compassion.  You know, like Jesus was.  But they often fail.  I think this is because their hearts have not ever been properly broken.  They, like younger-me, have succeeded in checking the righteousness boxes, but without experiencing failure or heartbreak.  A wise fox once said that things that matter are only visible with the heart.  I think the heart has to break before it can see outward like that.

On my walk down this painful road, I’ve learned that certainty is often evidence of ignorance.  I’ve lived it.  I remember being so certain.  But I was so closed-minded.  The Glories of the universe are right in front of us.  My broken heart opened my mind to doubt, doubt in many things I had once thought I knew.  Now, being so unsure of so much, I see so much more beauty in the universe and in humanity.  Fear of wickedness is no longer a motivator to me.  Celebration of life and love is.  I see a planet and people that are better than ever in so many ways, even as we humans still have a ways to go.

I see you, too, friend.  Faithful or fearful.  Broken or whole.  I love you.  I’m not the only one around who has had to recover from a heart broken by what I once held dear.  But you, friend, I think that maybe, just maybe, you have not.  I am happy for you, happy that surety and certainty are something you can find comfort in.  I’m not in that chapter of life now.  My heart, broken as it was, never came back together the same way.  I don’t think that’s possible.  But it has healed.  And in healing, I find that it has grown larger, more inclusive, more willing to accept people than it was before.  This is where I am.  It’s better than where I was when I was certain.  I hope, friend, that you can let me, and my brothers and sisters who are on this journey with me, sit next to you as we all travel the road.  Even if we are not as certain as you about what lies at the end of the road.

I met Jesus on this road. And he was really, really kind.

 

___
*Photo by Nick Herasimenka on Unsplash

Comments

  1. Wow. Thank you so so much.

  2. Eric Facer says:

    Wow, indeed. I marvel that you did not give up on the church. I probably would have under these circumstances.

    In his book, “Just Mercy,” Bryan Stevenson shares the following quote from Thomas Merton: “We are bodies of broken bones.” He then goes on to recount the following episode from his college days:

    “When I was a college student, I had a job working as a musician in a black church in a poor section of West Philadelphia. At a certain point in the service I would play the organ before the choir began to sing. The minister would stand, spread his arms wide, and say, ‘Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.'”

    I’d love to hear a chorister in our church say this someday before our opening hymn in sacrament meeting.

  3. I think I know the broken heart that does not come back together the same way. But I didn’t always. At the same time that I celebrate the grace that this piece journals, I’m aware that the story didn’t always resolve so well and I want to remain open to also hearing in the midst of exclusion and anger.

  4. Somehow I’m not surprised by any part of the story. I sometimes wish I could still be surprised by such reports. I too celebrate the grace found and shown and encouraged.

  5. Kristin Brown says:

    What helped me is knowing there is an All-Seeing-Eye. He will make things right in the end. No one can lie or deceive The God who will judge and make things right in the end. Liars make life hard for all involved and I truly believe our church leaders are doing their best.

  6. Mr. Schmidt says:

    “I think this is because their hearts have not ever been properly broken. They, like younger-me, have succeeded in checking the righteousness boxes, but without experiencing failure or heartbreak.”

    Amen. thank you for sharing your experience, and what you have learned from it. It’s so hard to parse out the human from the divine, as both “follower” and “leader” though we are all both at the same time, no matter our “position.”

    Doubt is one way to describe it; to me, it has always been more a question of whether I am willing to acknowledge that I could be wrong in my thinking, as a tool to cause me to consider someone else and understand their perspective. But as I write that, I see that this is, in my way, doubt as well.

    You know, I would say there are at least two types of certainty: (1) certainty based off of an experience we cannot deny, and because of that certainty allows us to listen to other ideas and perspectives and discern between truth and error without feeling personally threatened, and (2) certainty based off of a fear of failure and of finding out that my construct is wrong. I’d submit that (2) is a false certainty, and the kind that so many that hurt you acted under. Oh how I hope that I can achieve the (1) and let go of/avoid the (2).

  7. The awesome person in this story is your wife who married you without that stupid temple recommend.

    What an amazing person you have become. Your children are blessed to have you as a Father.

  8. What a beautifully written, powerful post. Thank you for sharing. I hope that we can continue to see change where change needs to happen in the church. I hope that I can be better at accepting and loving, and always giving people the benefit of the doubt.

  9. I am sorry this happened to you, but thank you for sharing your experience. Your insights are powerful and true. Over the last several years I have come to appreciate my own “brokenness” for giving me a depth of compassion and charity that I hadn’t always recognized. It has helped me appreciate the darker or more difficult parts of my history, whereas I used to despise them.

    And your message motivates me to be sure that when interacting with others or where I feel a tendency towards judgement, I look first through my own broken heart and experiences.

  10. Thank you for writing this. I am at a difficult place in my own life, broken in both good and bad ways. Many of the priesthood leaders I have dealt with have been wrong, not out of evil but out of ignorance. And sometimes out of a sense that they could not be wrong because they held a priesthood position of authority, one that did not require them to even consult those whose eternal marriages they were busy destroying with their ill-informed counsel to the mentally ill spouse. And definitely out of a sense that they did not need to apologize for their mistakes when those errors were pointed out to them later. And I too needed to see my own incorrect ideas and behaviors and be broken by them.

    My particular problem has been the way the Church has dealt with severe mental illness. Too often they are decades late in realizing the sinner is ill. And by the time they realize it the person’s marriage has ended in divorce and the person has left the Church again, unwilling to undergo a second excommunication trial because the first one was completely unsuccessful in even identifying the problem, let alone using priesthood power to heal it.
    At least in my experience, the children of these people are often lost to the gospel. The promises of eternal family did not come true for them so why should they believe? What are the benefits to them from the teachings of the gospel? Humiliation? Lectures from other Church members about their lower place in the Church hierarchy?
    I have often thought that our perhaps incorrect understanding of the sealing ordinances of child to parent are causing such great distress they act as a wedge between the saving light in the temple ordinances and the person asked to believe in them. If your parents’ marriage did not survive, what is the meaning of your eternal family? And if your birth came about because your parent was lost in a manic episode, having sex with a stranger, who are you and what blessings do you have the right to? If you think these are rare problems, may I assure you from personal experience that they are not. I could right now name at least a dozen friends facing them.
    I am hoping that the current revelation President Nelson is receiving will include receiving additional revelation from God on these matters. At the time of Joseph Smith, falsehoods regarding the future of unbaptized children greatly needed to be corrected so that hope could be restored to their parents. In our day we are sorely in need of additional enlightenment concerning mental illness and other matters. We may need to rely on faith after we are instructed, but how can we exercise it if we lack the truth to believe in?
    Oh, and I would contact the erring stake presidents and send them a copy of your post. Let them know they are responsible for publicly confessing their errors and making full restitution, which can only mean they turn in their temple recommends for the same time period they kept you from yours. It is important they also be broken.

  11. You give me hope, author. Thank you for sharing this. I will keep trying to see and learn and heal.

  12. Sylvia, thank you. Not something I could write from personal experience (but only from a theoretical one- or two-step remove). But needs to be said, needs to be part of our collective thinking.

  13. “Those years of my heart being broken mattered.”
    Thank you for writing this post, but I am most grateful for this piece and the paragraph that follows. My brokenness has been a doorway to a better place, and also a tool that can help me do many more and much more difficult things than I did in my former life. I’m still working on ridding my life of the shame. At church I’m still expected to keep quiet and be nice. I know that for me to hide the scars or deny what caused them puts me in terrible peril, and I deserve to be safe. And that safety must come from me first and foremost. Maybe someday I can participate again with my friends and family, but the way we are now, it’s just not safe.

  14. Lily Darais says:

    Thank you for this beautiful post, and I agree with Sylvia. It would be an act of compassion to share this with those priesthood leaders who wronged you so. It might soften their hearts and give them an opportunity to find Jesus, as you have. They need to know.

  15. The prevailing belief regarding stressors/crisis events/trauma responses is either fight or flight, when actually it’s fight, flight, or freeze. I just wanted to let the author know that they had a perfectly normal response to trauma by freezing. You kept yourself safe and that’s all that matters.

    LDS leaders are notoriously bad with sexual assault. Protecting predators is status quo. What are active LDS members doing to change this?

    To the author, I’m so sorry this happened to you, but I’m even more sorry that you weren’t believed. Not being believed is its own form of trauma.

  16. The post and some of the stories remind me too much of the experiences of my first wife. Because of the rounds of “leadership roulette” we went through, part of me wanted to describe religious abuse as the cause of death in her obituary. I lost my patience when, after months of talking with our branch president, he told me that he finally started praying for us, instead of about us, and he wanted to change what he was doing.

    If I were a better man, I would have had more charity and taken him up on that offer, and maybe we all could have healed better and more quickly. Instead, I got our records moved to another unit and moved out of state as quickly as I could, just to avoid him and the church in that area. I still haven’t told my new wife any of the details that led to that move.

  17. nobody, really says:

    The problem with sharing this story with priesthood leaders is you are then perceived as being critical of priesthood leaders, and that will land your butt in the High Council room in short order.

    I’ve had leaders state “Never apologize for teaching the Gospel of Christ”. When they define everything they do and every choice they make, even if horribly wrong, as the Gospel, then you will never get an apology, and never get any change.

    And every leader will always think that they are the stated exception to “We have learned from sad experience, that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” Temple interview questions are to be kept to the ones listed in the book. There is no bringing up outside information, no probing, no questions about “gross” or “net” or “food storage” or “Prop 8” allowed. If they aren’t sticking to the ones listed on the page they are doing it wrong. Church leaders only have the authority we choose to give them, and we don’t have to give them the authority to ask “off the menu” questions.

  18. Dane Laverty says:

    Expanding on Risa’s comment, I’ve recently seen “fawn” or “appease” appended to the “fight, flight, or freeze” response list. I’ve found that added term helpful for understanding some of my own reactions in similar situations.

  19. I’ve never heard “fawn” in that list, but I like it. All anyone wants in those situations is for the pain to stop, and sometimes the best way to make the pain stop is to flatter / fawn / placate the person causing the harm.

  20. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your tenderness is very touching to me. I am sorry it happened to you–none of it was okay–and yet very grateful for your healing experience.

  21. so good. thank you dear author for sharing this. so important we share.

  22. I must remain nameless says:

    I had a really bad experience regarding my mentally ill former husband. I did demand and receive a meeting, first with my bishop, then my stake president and then with the Seventy over my area. My letter was sent to the President of the Seventies and because I refused to accept his first response, I did get an apology from him for the way my priesthood leaders had treated me. And the Seventy whom I met with personally had the grace to look severely embarrassed as I laid out my complaints. After all, when your husband’s new bishop tells him he does not need to notify the wife he is still married to that he was having sex with prostitutes during their marriage but he does need to tell his current girlfriend who he has gotten pregnant so that she can decide whether or not she wants to marry him after his divorce becomes final, what possible excuse can the priesthood offer to justify that?
    So I do think you can complain. Indeed, I now believe it is the only way to get this stopped. How will these men be made aware that others acting under their direction are exercising unrighteous dominion if we do not learn to stand up and insist on being heard?

  23. Thank you, this was very heartfelt and impressive. My experiences have been different, but I believe that it’s a problem for the Church that lives and testimonies are broken in a culture that supposes omniscience in leaders at any level, based on their gut feelings. Pres. Nelson said “good inspiration comes from good information” and it sounds like your leaders were functioning on a system of garbage in – garbage out. My heart is with you.

  24. I’m so sorry.

  25. Lovely. Thank you.

  26. That is horrific and amazing all at the same time. You have my sympathy and you have my homage. Injustice at the hands of those representing Christ is so disappointing. I’m impressed that you grew from it.

  27. The underground man says:

    But for the grace of god go i. I know someone who went through something similar ugh

  28. I’ve never been able to find my way to the healing part. I’m sincerely glad that you have. Right now I’m at a place where I am just trying to stay alive. It’s so hard. I’ve carried this burden for so long and so far that I long to set it down. The truth is that I am a coward. I am afraid to open myself up and be vulnerable because I don’t want to hurt anymore. Like you, intellectually I know I did nothing wrong, but shame is so deeply embedded in my DNA that it won’t allow me to access the grace of God. It is easier to be protected by my anger and my bone-deep sadness, or to let go completely than to ever think myself worthy of divine love and guidance. Thank you for sharing your story. Every broken heart strengthens the body of Christ.

  29. Janet Garrard-Willis says:

    Thank you for this. Your journey sounds both hellish and healing, and you convey the extremes beautifully. Sometimes the broken heart is a heart open to grace in ways previously unimagined. Jesus is, above all, kind.

  30. EOR — my heart aches for you. You are loved. Is there any way we can help you feel that, that transcends the words alone? We will listen. We will pray with you. We will offer hugs.

  31. Thank you for posting this. It’s painful and sad to read but it’s also true that experiences like this can open our eyes to the injustices around us and also introduce us to our Savior. You are (I think) a straight white man but you got to experience what the most marginalized in our community experience.

  32. Carolyn, thank you. I appreciate your kindness so much. I’m actually quite privileged on the Earthly love front. My family is bound tight, and I’m getting married in a month and a half so I am surrounded by people that love me. I still am unable to access self-love, or the love of God. I struggle mightily.

  33. EOR, I echo Carolyn’s words and feelings. Struggle is heavy and exhausting, and I hope and pray there are even small ways we can help shoulder those burdens. I am grateful you are blessed, even in the face of your sorrow.

  34. This made me feel both really sad and hopeful, all at once. I’m so sorry that such a painful thing happened to you, while also feeling very impressed and inspired by the place you have come to. Thank you for sharing.

  35. These stories are so important for us to hear as a tribe. Thank you for sharing.

  36. Dane, thank you for adding fawn/appease to the language of trauma responses. This adds so much more context. I will be sharing this far and wide. And by far and wide I mean with my fellow social workers.

  37. Another Roy says:

    My own temple marriage came down to the wire because DW’s bishop was taking his own sweet time getting the TR for live ordinance signed. (I honestly forget the details on why, maybe he was just busy and couldn’t get a meeting) The bishop’s wife finally intervened on our behalf and helped him understand that his delay was causing unnecessary stress. The prospect of cancelling the wedding or moving it to a non-temple venue would have been a nightmare scenario for us. Conceptually it would have been emotionally similar to being branded with the metaphorical scarlet “A” before our closest family and friends (maybe that sounds dramatic but it is sure how it felt).
    I am not sure how this can be corrected as long as we combine weddings and temple sealings. Maybe a couple should get married and then spend the next year preparing spiritually on becoming “one” as a pair and then getting sealed as more of a capstone event. Then perhaps the temple prep class could be more about love, compassion, and forgiveness in marriage. Just a thought. I do not think it is helpful to couple a wedding with public displays of worthiness.

  38. It is very painful not to be believed by Church leaders or even friends and family who are members. We seem to feel only certain experiences in life are valid, those that match our own or those we have heard repeated at the pulpit. I am so sorry first for the original assault, then for the terrible response to it.
    I do not know why we insist others must respond to something as we believe they should. I personally kept private for decades some traumatic experiences in my marriage and divorce. Shouldn’t what I choose to discuss be up to me? And wasn’t I correct in assessing how others would respond when I did talk about it? Yes to both. You are believed, something I cannot claim. But God knows and I believe He has given you the greater gift, that of charity. And I believe you will be far ahead of those who doubted you in the world to come. Far ahead. And you are blessed indeed to be loved by such a good woman.

  39. It must have been very difficult to go through this, thanks for sharing your experience. As far as the editorial comment of “ecclesiastical abuse,” it seems that there is a bit of a conundrum here. If “Dude” told his ecclesiastical authorities that he was abused, then we are in a situation where the ecclesiastical authorities believed the victim (“Dude”). Ages are not stated in the account, but it seems that Dude may have been a teenager or minor. What reason should Dude be disbelieved, if you are the Bishop or Stake President? In this case it seems false accusations had a long-lasting impact, which caused great hurt.

  40. So let’s give full credit to the idea that the ecclesiastical authorities believed Dude’s hypothetical version of the story upfront. Then –maybe– their initial reaction to block the Author’s imminent temple wedding makes some sense. But the years of doubling-down afterwards does not, particularly not as additional facts came to light.

    “For years, because SPB was convinced I was a non-confessing liar, I could attend Church but not the Temple. I could not be sealed to my wife or kids. I was barred from holding callings. SPB accused me of lying, of being a danger to young men, and of being a dangerous father to my children. He actively tried to break apart my family. There was never a disciplinary council.”

    If Dude was believed and the Author was not, then it doesn’t make any sense why the stake president would engage in a years-long shadow-ban, rather than pursuing either a loving “repentance” track or a “safety of the community” disciplinary track. Instead they just held Author in stasis.

  41. Perhaps what was related by “Dude” could have warranted formal discipline and excommunication. But the stake president was in a kind of limbo as to what he believed as to the credibility of both persons, i.e. believed the author enough to not proceed with formal discipline, but not enough to allow him into full fellowship. These are just guesses. Is this “abuse”? So many here have been upset when a stake president did not believe an account of abuse. And here we have the person (Dude) being believed (again, a guess), can we have some idea in our heads that it was a complicated situation for the Bishop and Stake Presidents? And that false accusations can have huge, damaging effects. And just maybe, not all accusers should be believed?

  42. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    hmmm…the comments just took an odd turn.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this experience. It can be so frustrating (such an insufficient word, in this case) to run up against a hierarchy that is designed to police itself, to protect itself, and to perpetuate itself. There’s just no way to break through. It took years for you, and yours isn’t an isolated story. While there was finally resolution, it seems to be the exception rather than the norm. Best wishes for what lies ahead!

  43. This is beautifully expressed. Thank you for sharing your experience. You have reminded me again of the importance of both love and (humble) skepticism.

  44. After being married to someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, may I state, they will tell terrible lies about you to people in positions of authority. Sometimes those lies are believed. Sometimes by Church leaders. Does the mentally ill person even know they are lies? Sometimes yes, sometimes it is unsure. They can be extremely mentally unstable. And the high functioning ones can operate well at work in most cases. My former husband was a corporate CEO who rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange the day the company he founded began trading. His name is listed on buildings as a leader of various civic organizations. But he should have been in a mental hospital as his sister and aunt once were. And he was terrified at what was happening to him. The fear I heard in his voice still haunts me.
    Following his death his company rewrote its web pages to eliminate any mention of his existence as details of his behavior became public.
    One of the possible symptoms of borderline is a fluctuating sexual orientation. Because of that, borderlines often end up associating with the gay community or identifying as gay. Are they? Unknown.
    Could this have been what happened. I do not know but we need to be aware of its possibility as we make judgements. It is why it is so dangerous to make the statement that we should start with belief when someone tells us they have been sexually assaulted, that people do not lie about it. And no, I am not referring to the author of the original post, but to the man who assaulted him. We need to start with the possibility of truth and investigate. And we need to realize the person may sincerely believe what he is saying without its being true.
    We also need to be extremely wary of advocating gay marriage as a solution. People with severe personality disorders are a grave danger to the LGBTQ community. They can be, and often are, violent. Their extreme promiscuity spreads HIV and other STD’s. They easily become drug addicts or alcoholics. They start sexual relationships with the spouse’s best friend while their spouse is pregnant and then come home to tell the spouse about it. Or have sex with a stranger in their own home, then drag their sexual partner out to the kitchen to introduce them to their spouse. Or they do what my ex-husband did to his second wife, have sex with a total stranger he met on a plane and tell his wife he had no choice because he could not hurt this stranger’s feelings.
    They have been known to plant drugs in a spouse’s suitcase, then call the airport to have them arrested. They have been known to murder their children.
    Why am I saying this? Because like me before I experienced it firsthand, most people have never imagined that the married in the temple return missionary just called as Elder’s Quorum counselor or member of the bishopric is terrorizing his wife and children and they are too traumatized or gaslighted into believing it is their fault to speak up. Or that the quiet person at Church is considering suicide because they cannot escape from a situation you cannot imagine and they lack the words to describe.
    I am extremely grateful to my Father in Heaven for telling a dear friend one night as he said his prayers that I was in terrible trouble. I had lost all hope and was contemplating suicide. At that time you could not get a sealing cancellation until you were ready to remarry. My former husband used it as an excuse to stay in touch. I so desperately needed to be free in order to heal. Thank goodness President Monson changed the rules. Thank goodness for my friend’s ability to hear the Spirit.
    Were my priesthood leaders wrong? Yes. But should I have expected them to know about this illness? For years I was extremely angry with them but now I realize it was unfair at the time to expect this kind of knowledge. They were called as bishops not psychiatrists. We can do better, even if just making our leaders and members aware of the existence of these illnesses.
    And if you think you have never heard of this, think the actress Lindsay Lohan who keeps changing her sexual orientation, Princess Diana who convinced the world it was the royal family persecuting her, Marilyn Monroe who conducted a public affair in front of her husband on the movie he wrote for her but could not then imagine he wanted a divorce, and Hugh Nibley’s daughter Martha Beck with her book describing her allegation that her father regularly ritually sexually abused her without any of her seven brothers and sisters knowing about it despite living in a small Provo three bedroom house. These people have convinced others. This is what borderline looks like. On average, they should be at least one in every ward. There is currently no drug treatment.

  45. The $64,000 Answer says:

    “LDS leaders are notoriously bad with sexual assault. Protecting predators is status quo. What are active LDS members doing to change this?”

    I’m not LDS, but I had exactly the same question. If you’ll forgive an outsider’s perspective, too many of the comments on this thread are predicated on the assumption that stories of this kind (can anyone deny with a straight face that any number of similar ones could be found by those who take the trouble to look for them?) impose no particular moral obligation on what in Catholicism we’d call the laity to do their duty as members of the body of Christ, regardless of whether the leadership did their duty or not.

    Our sexual assault crisis — both clergy-perpetrated and otherwise — revealed that a very large proportion of us didn’t genuinely believe what we professed as foundational truths of our faith. I wonder what yours will reveal, and is revealing, about you.

  46. The part of my life story no one wants to believe is that my former husband and I were commanded by God to marry and to be sure we married in the temple. We did. As it turns out , he was mentally ill. A terrible situation made impossible by our not realizing what was happening. Plus stupid mistakes I made out of pride and foolish beliefs I followed because that is how good people treated their spouses, by protecting their secrets. I was taught to set the example for my non-member relatives. We had the temple marriage they would follow. I was taught to protect that image because their salvation depended on it. I loved them and could not fail them. In addition I knew revealing the full extent of my husband’s behavior would leave me open to judgement by others, something I had experienced too much of already. I could hear the statements: This obviously happened because I was a feminist.
    Silence can destroy as well as protect. It keeps you from accessing the help that exists. A false picture of our role in mortality warps our interactions with others.
    I remain partially broken. But I no longer believe I have to stay that way. I feel a renewal of hope in the power of the Atonement to heal everyone involved. I do not pretend to understand because my story is so different from what church leaders teach. My eternal marriage failed and I applied for and obtained a sealing cancellation. The eternal picture remains unclear, my dearest mortal dreams unfulfilled. But eternity includes today and today I choose to be happy. And to believe that Christ is the one who saves, not me with my example. I do not need to appear perfect; I can just be my flawed self. God loves feminists. He is married to one, a powerful woman.
    And I have come to pity many whose families are intact. They have so much more to learn. They judge the divorced, the mentally ill, the damaged as less than. We, however, see it is they who remain in elementary school as we graduate college. And we are sorry they never really knew us because they missed so much we could have taught them.

  47. Thank you for sharing your journey. I am in the process of finding faith that my son’s recent challenges that broke his heart in the church and caused hurt and anger will end up being something he and the Lord can consecrate for him….eventually.

  48. I was married to someone who suffered from borderline personality disorder. If you are unfamiliar with just how bad it can be, spend some time at bpdfamily.org reading the posts on the message board. There used to be specific threads for individual religions. The ones where LDS family members posted were just as harrowing as those for any other.
    I experienced the lies, the manipulations, the adultery, the using of priesthood and ward members against me. I suffered through his adultery and threats of violence. I dealt, in the end unsuccessfully, with the Church’s unwillingness to allow me a sealing cancellation. I finally had a complete breakdown.
    But today I wish to speak of the fear I heard in his voice when we spoke on the phone, years after our divorce. He was terrified by what was happening. His priesthood brethren failed him, not knowing what they were witnessing. Perhaps we can do better. Perhaps we can humbly admit we have few answers and little power to help our mentally ill. And because we have invested our financial resources in football stadiums and not in medical research, we can hardly expect any better outcomes than we have had. Or we can expand our familysearch database so the medical researchers will have larger family trees to work with as they seek answers. (See pieces in theatlantic.com regarding Utah Population Database.) We can learn the symptoms of mental illness. We can educate ourselves about the high percentage that remain untreatable. We can insist on adequate funding for research and treatment. We could actually become real Christians not pretend ones.

  49. I am so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for sharing.
    I do not know if this is mental illness, unrecognized by Church leaders. I have watched many friends face it with bosses, spouses, parents and siblings. The smear campaigns are the worst. How do you fight lies like this? Only through education. As we become aware of the symptoms, we are less likely to be deceived.

  50. If you want to know if this post has accomplished something valuable, it has. I believe I will write a letter today to try to help heal a heart broken by the mental illness of another. And yes, it was someone with Borderline, that horrible mental illness where the sufferers are so successful in manipulating the truth to people near them, especially people in positions of authority. You see, they actually mirror the people in power, adopting their opinions, which makes them human chameleons since every situation has a different person in power, a different person with different values that the borderline must adopt as his own. And why is this done? Borderline appears to concern the serotonin circuits in the brain and the only way to generate enough serotonin is to constantly be receiving approval from others.
    Obviously I do not know what is wrong with Dude. But it just might be mental illness. It could easily be borderline. He would repeat what happened at your house, but changed so he was not at fault. Would he be convincing to others? Yes.
    So thank you again for posting. And please see that your former stake president gets a copy of your post and all the comments. He can grow and it would not hurt him to apologize to you and your wife.

  51. Capital punishment of the innocent isn’t the only kind of punishment that can’t be undone.

  52. The elephant in the room. The higher rates of mental illness among the LGBTQ population than among the heterosexual population. Especially men with Borderline who also suffer from substance abuse, of whom half identify as gay. Especially young gay men, half of whom suffer from anxiety and depression, EVEN if their families and friends were entirely supportive of their coming out and they grew up in a place and time when they knew they could marry. Legalizing gay marriage did not change this percentage. Wrap your head around the numbers and you can see we have been sidetracked by false narratives. We cannot seek answers for problems we refuse to acknowledge because they are uncomfortable to face.
    If you really care about the LGBTQ people, see what you can do to get more funding for mental health care research. Contact your congressmen and women. Educate yourself by reading the current research. Realize that the non-mentally ill LGBTQ people are at great risk from the most seriously mentally ill since one of the possible symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder is confusion about gender orientation. These seriously ill people end up in relationships with LGBTQ people, using and abusing them. Violence, substance abuse, and sexual promiscuity with the accompanying sexually transmitted diseases are hallmarks of Borderline. Imagine the havoc this is causing in the lives of those already struggling to find acceptance in our society. Imagine that insistence on political correct interpretations of the facts keeps our society from identifying the actual problem and taking steps to solve it.
    To the author of the original post, I am terribly sorry you went through this. Thank you for speaking out. We cannot solve problems we do not know about. We cannot grow if we are not occasionally upbraided so feel free to upbraid your former stake president. Jesus is kind and He is here. And we become like Him when we suffer as He did.

  53. Jaime is correct. Our ignorance about the symptoms of mental illness, especially those where the sufferer is undergoing serious breaks with reality, such as thinking things are happening that are not, are getting us into real trouble in the judgements we are making. Be extremely careful about believing any ideas that disagree with the prophets. Mental illness throws off all the current politically correct dogma. There is a great website and message board at bpdfamily.org for those with family and friends who suffer from borderline. If you spend enough time there, the stories people are telling will terrify you. As someone who was once married to a borderline, I can attest to the absolute madness of a spouse who could appear normal when talking with others at church and at work. If there had not been two ex-wife and one current wife telling the same stories, I am not sure we would have been believed.

  54. I wish I could shout this post from the rooftops. Yes, I believe Dude may be mentally ill. High functioning borderlines are completely believable. I do wish the church would provide training to the leaders about this illness. My bishops and my former spouse’s were so taken in by his lies.

  55. The ignorance of LDS members and leaders regarding mental illness is appalling. It may have been understandable in less educated times, but now there is no excuse.

  56. Thank you, thank you for this post. I am still struggling but have recently really felt this love from God. How grateful I am for it.
    I too thought of myself as a model Mormon. I had come to Church at 12 and tried very hard to integrate the teachings I received. But somehow Grace and the Atonement and truly loving myself and others escaped my understanding. My gospel was about rules and setting the example that others would follow. A number of friends have mentioned how thoroughly we felt that we were to be the examples that would bring our non-member friends into the Church. But I realize now that people are attracted to love and warmth not a projected perfection.
    I too had an experience that broke me. I am not healed yet, but hope to get there.

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